In Brief—A discussion of the author’s experiences and views on whether a mandatory draft of men and women is preferable over an all-volunteer military.
Frying Pan or Fire—
I sat there in my suit and tie talking to a young man who had just received his draft notice. I might as well have been speaking Swahili because the young man was looking at me quizzically as if he had very little idea what I was talking about.
Unlike the others, I was the only one dressed in the attire of the corporate office where I had worked until recently. I knew the Selective Service law backward and forward thanks to the education I had received from the professional draft lawyers at the Los Angeles Free Clinic, but now I was an associate in a law office devoted to the draft and talking to a young man who wanted me to save him from the killing fields of Vietnam.
Until recently, I had worked in the belly of the corporate beast for thirteen years. Rather than searching for a job I would hate, I was highly recommended by my mentors at the Free Clinic to a small law firm specializing in draft and military law. Right place, right time. Suddenly, I was sitting across from a young man who faced military service in Vietnam. I was entering the happiest period of my life, but my client was legitimately afraid for his.
After first speaking to my young clients in corporate-law-speak, I soon realized my approach was wasteful of his and my time, so from then on I spoke in terms clients could understand. Along with that change, bell bottomed trousers and flowered shirts replaced the suit and tie.
After considerable success in the courts and on the seething streets of America, the war ended with America’s defeat and the Selective Service System went out of business as we planned. The country transitioned to an all-volunteer military.
With that change, I weighed the wisdom of the draft versus the all-volunteer military. I began questioning whether the draft was better than the monster that began growing out of the ashes, conservative anger and recrimination that followed in the wake of the lost war.
My thoughts are more relevant than ever with the current move by the Senate to reinstate the draft now that the military has begun accepting women in combat roles. Got to feed that voracious hunger for warm bodies so America can fight its wars.
Middle-and-upper-class parents have or can get the money and possess the knowledge of the system. They will hire a draft lawyer to keep their child out of the military. Others rely on influential cronies who can pull strings to get their child into a safe reserve organization as was the case with George W. Bush. Some flee to other countries like Canada or Sweden rather than becoming cannon fodder for the U.S. military. A few would injure themselves in order to qualify as unacceptable for military service. The truly brave ones like David Harris burned their draft cards and went to prison for their beliefs.
Alternatively, the current all-volunteer military relies on two sources: 1) the patriotic dupes like Pat Tillman who are swayed by government propaganda that they must put their bodies on the line so the investor class will continue to profit from war; 2) the disadvantaged and poor, predominantly minorities, who see military service as a way to earn money. They never think—and are certainly not told by a recruiter— that a roadside bomb might blow them to pieces or rob them of limbs.
As a lawyer with experience in the area and as a realist who has looked at human nature, I have weighed the pros and cons of both sides. Meanwhile, America stands astride the world with a mighty military and the deluded belief that its society is the best of all possible worlds. It will not change. Even as it sinks into irrelevance, it clings to the ways that once worked but no longer do. For me, it comes down to picking the lesser of evils.
The Draft Wins—
In this case, my conclusion is that the lesser evil is the draft. If the draft resumes, the knowledgeable with money will still hire a draft lawyer. The powerful will still rely on influential cronies to keep their sons and daughters from becoming cannon fodder. Some will flee to safe havens…although that’s easier said than done these days. Some will use other means to render themselves unacceptable while the brave ones will go to prison for their beliefs.
With the military owning America and getting billions of dollars from the sychophantic politicians in congress, they will get their warm bodies. Draft boards will be run by individuals who will do everything short of gang-pressing youths to fill the quotas for the month. The military wins whether there’s a draft or not, but at least there’s a chance that a draft will moderate the militarization of America. And the U.S. will still continue to fade into history.
My experience in the military and as a draft lawyer make me a realist and a cynic on this issue. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the subject, but I have given you my conclusion to consider. Let me know your views. I’ll elaborate in my responses.